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Narratives

Early Life
Learn about John Davidson’s early life in Scotland. Born in 1878, Davidson immigrated to Canada in 1911, after discovering that his lack of a university degree greatly limited his opportunities for advancement in the Scottish university system.
Botany in BC
Despite Davidson’s opinion that British Columbia was a botanical “empty land” when he first investigated moving to the area, the history of botany in British Columbia reveals that much botanical work had already taken place. Read about the work of early British Columbian natural history societies.
Essondale to UBC
Follow the series of events that started with Davidson’s getting a job as field assistant to the newly formed Provincial Botanical Office. Read about his promotion, the establishment of a botanical garden at Essondale (now Riverview) and the relocation of the garden to the newly formed university, where Davidson became the “demonstrator in charge of the herbarium and botanical garden.”
A Society Emerges
Learn how the 1918 merger of the Vancouver Arbor Day Association and the natural history section of the BC Mountaineering Club led to the creation of the Vancouver Natural History Society. Davidson became the first president of this society, which is now known as Nature Vancouver.
Arbor Day
“Slovenly streets betoken a slovenly populace,” was a popular saying in Davidson’s day. Read about the transformation of Vancouver: from a temperate rainforest, to an urbanized area with huge stumps and eroding hills, to a city made beautiful through the Arbor Day movement.
Garibaldi
Garibaldi Provincial Park was established in 1927. John Davidson was instrumental in both exploring the area and advocating for the establishment of the park. The human history of the area predates Davidson, though. The Squamish Nation had lived in the area for thousands of years. Learn about the history of the area, from its early days until the park’s creation.
Conservation
Selected passages from John Davidson’s presentations and lectures show how John Davidson’s life as a natural historian influenced his outlook and opinions. Read about how his role as a naturalist led him to become a political advocate for nature.
Logging Controversy
Through his strengths as an educator and organizer, John Davidson played a significant role in protecting Vancouver’s watersheds from logging. His approach, which combined science and political activism, made him a local environmental folk hero. Discover how Davidson used articles and lectures to inform other citizens about the threats of logging and to nurture a city-wide discussion about environmental issues.
Natural Theology
John Davidson, who was as passionate about his faith as he was about natural history, was politically active in preventing what he considered human-induced environmental changes. Learn how Davidson combined his religious beliefs with a scientific outlook.
Science and Society
To a certain extent, all people are influenced by the society and social status into which they are born. John Davidson was born to a working-class family in Scotland. His background led him to be a strong believer in equality regarding participation in science, which ran against a number of deeply held prejudices in Canadian society during the early twentieth century. Read about the early roles of women in botany, the attitudes of many Canadians toward immigrants and the barriers of social class.
UBC Botanical Garden
The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, established in 1916, is Canada’s longest-operating university botanical garden. Since it was first created at UBC, with plants from its original home at Essondale (now Riverview), the garden has changed significantly many times. Learn about the transformations that took place in John Davidson’s lifetime.